I was numb. Standing there as paramedics worked tirelessly over Wyatt’s unresponsive body I couldn’t seem to move. Miranda’s sobbing and begging for Wyatt to wake up seemed so far away. Nothing felt real. Almost as if I were having an out of body experience. Other than my grandmother, I’d never experienced losing someone I loved. Surely he wasn’t going to die. Wouldn’t Dank have warned me? Didn’t he know these things beforehand?
As if he heard his name in my thoughts he appeared, standing like a beautiful dark angel, behind the paramedic that was bent over Wyatt and administering CPR. They were getting the defibrillator ready to shock his heart. Nothing else had worked.
Dank’s eyes met mine and I could see the sorrow there in those blue depths. This couldn’t mean what I thought it did. He’d just come to reassure me, hadn’t he? Wyatt was too young to just drop dead. He was my friend. Not just any friend but one I’d had my whole life or as long as I could remember. We’d had hotdog eating contests and raced dirt bikes. Wyatt had been the one to teach me to ride a skateboard and I’d been the one to bait his hook with chicken liver when we went fishing. He hated the stuff. Made him queasy. He was a part of my life and I didn’t want to let him go. Didn’t Dank see that?
“Wyatt, please baby, please, open your eyes for me,” Miranda sobbed brokenly as they placed the two paddles on his chest the same way I’d seen them do to people on Grey’s Anatomy. Wyatt’s chest rose and fell in a quick jerk as they all seemed to be hovering over him begging him to respond. But nothing. I watched them do it again and with the same results. Nothing was happening. Then I watched as Wyatt’s soul lifted from his body and went directly to Dank. Wyatt never looked back as a transporter I’d never met stepped forward and in an instant they were gone. Wyatt was gone.
The horror of what I’d just witnessed felt like a knife in my chest. He’d taken Wyatt from me. How could he take someone from me so easily? Miranda crumpled to the ground as the paramedics stated the time of death as 8:02. I couldn’t bring myself to see if Dank was still here watching as our world fell apart. Instead, I walked over to Miranda and joined her on the dewymorning grass. Wrapping my arms around her body I let myself give into the pain.
The paramedics on the scene believed it was a brain aneurysm but no one would know for sure until after the autopsy. Seeing Wyatt’s body zipped up in a body bag had been the most bizarre moment in my life. Although I knew he wasn’t in there any longer it was still an odd moment. I’d fought the urge to jump up and run over to them and demand they let him go. He wouldn’t be able to breathe in that bag. He hated enclosed spaces. Once I’d shut him up in my closet and locked the door and by the time I let him out he’d gone into a full anxiety attack. Now they were zipping him up in a bag and soon he’d be underground. We’d see him lying in a casket then he’d be lost to us forever. No basketball scholarship. No NBA. Wyatt was gone.
Miranda hadn’t spoken or eaten since her mother had shown up after getting a call from the school. Miranda and I hadn’t moved from our huddle on the ground when her mother arrived. I’d managed to coax Miranda to get up and we’d both ridden in the back of her mother’s Cadillac to her house. Now she lay curled up in a ball on her pink fluffy bed with the stuffed animal Wyatt had given her for Valentine’s Day last year. It’d had a necklace around its neck with a small heart shaped diamond. He’d saved up for almost a year to buy it for her. For twelve months he’d stop me in the hall at least twice a week and whisper how much closer to his goal he was. I’d smile and shake my head because they really were sickeningly sweet.
“How long you plan on staying here?” Gee asked and I jumped, startled by her arrival. I hadn’t expected her to show up here. Frowning, I glanced over at Miranda and I wondered if she was asleep. I knew the pill her mother had given her as soon as we arrived had been to help her sleep.
“She’s sleeping but she can’t see or hear me anyway. I’m incognito,” Gee explained.
I didn’t want to go home. I didn’t want to leave her. And truthfully I didn’t want to see Dank. I was confused and hurt and Death wasn’t really who I wanted to see at the moment. Miranda’s room was safer.
“I’m staying the night. I’m not leaving until she’s better,” I replied in a clipped tone. Part of me was angry with Gee too. This was their job after all. Had they not considered I’d like to know about Wyatt’s death? Maybe I could have stopped it. If I’d known he had an aneurysm I could have done something.
“You’re mad at him, aren’t you,” Gee said matter of factly.
I only nodded.
“This was bound to happen sooner or later. You can’t love Death, Pagan, and not accept him. It’s what he was created for. He’s not just some sexy guy who can sing and play the guitar.”
I knew this, of course, but right now I didn’t want to talk about it. Not with her and not with him. “Just tell him I need time. I don’t want him showing up here. I don’t want to deal with talking it out with him right now. I need to grieve, alone.”
Gee opened her mouth to argue but closed it when I glared at her coldly.
“Okay, fine. If that’s how you feel.”
“To say that she is pissed would be putting it mildly,” Gee said as she stepped into Miranda’s backyard where I’d been waiting since she went in to talk to Pagan. I hadn’t felt comfortable barging in on Pagan while she was in Miranda’s room. So instead, I’d sent Gee.
“What did she say?” The icy cold fear that I’d damaged the feelings Pagan had for me had been eating me up inside since I’d taken Wyatt’s soul. If I’d only paid attention to the agenda and noticed his name but I’d skimmed it. This was the first time I’d missed something like this. I always noticed souls that held significance. I couldn’t figure out how I’d missed Wyatt’s soul. His death had surprised me as much as it did everyone else. If I’d known I’d have prepared Pagan.
When I’d arrived at the football field to find Wyatt’s body, I’d almost refused to take his soul. But as I stood there watching Pagan, I knew I couldn’t. I’d been given one reprieve from breaking the rules. I wouldn’t be given another. And I couldn’t leave her. My selfish nature won out. Unable to look her in the eyes I’d reached down and drawn his soul from his lifeless body. I’d met this soul before. This had been his third lifetime. Miranda’s soul was his mate. Her grieving would be deep because she’d lost a part of herself. I hated knowing I had anything to do with it.
“She’s upset, Dank. Right now, the fact you’re Death sheds a whole new light on her understanding of you. Before today she’d never really soaked in your purpose because you’d never taken anyone from her. Now, she knows. She’s battling the fact that to most humans Death is something they hate, fear, cower from and she’s in love with him.”
Self-loathing seeped into my skin and I bowed my head. This was inevitable. Death wasn’t something humans loved. Now, my Pagan had realized how difficult loving me really was. I’d ripped up her world today and left it in shreds and there was not one damn thing I could do about it.
“She loves you, Dankmar. I know she does. But this isn’t going to be easy for her to deal with. It’s a hard concept for me and I’m not human. Her human brain will have a hard time processing everything. Just give her time and space.”
Space? How was I going to give her space? I could hardly stand to be parted from her for hours at a time. How did I stand back and wait?
“How?” I asked, lifting my head to stare at Gee. Hoping for once in my existence she had something wise to say.
“How? Well, hell, Dank do I look like the freaking Creator? I don’t know. You just do.”
“I just do,” I repeated, gazing up at the window where I could feel Pagan’s heart beating. She was safe up there. I’d have to let her come to terms with who I am. Hopefully it wouldn’t take too much time.
“You’ll stay here and watch out for her?” I needed some reassurance that while she put distance between the two of us she’d still have someone near her.
Gee rolled her eyes and placed a hand on her hip. “You know it. I’m worried about her too, Dank. I’m not going anywhere. Since you don’t have Pagan’s desire to have you beside her weighing you down why don’t you go deal with some voodoo spirits and kick some ass.”
That was the first thing on my agenda. “I intend to. After this, dealing with Leif is the last thing she needs. I’ve got to figure out how to get rid of him.”
Letting out a relieved sigh, Gee nodded her head in agreement. “Yes, you do and this is the perfect time to do it.”